The Journal of Richard Paez|
On Words -- EXPLICIT
06/10/2014 01:23 p.m.
I feel the time has come to decriminalize the word “shit” and liberate it from the prison of vulgarity it has long been confined to. Simply said, “shit” provides too much utility to be considered offensive.
Shit is everywhere, it is integral to the circle and cycles of life, it is both proof and product of a fulfilling day, and none of the synonyms we've conjured up out of dead languages (“manure” and “defecate” and “fecal matter”) or toddler-babble (“poo-poo” and “doo-doo” and “caca”) or weighty metaphor (“dump” and “load” and “mud”) or mildly coarse exclamation (“crap” and “poop” and “turd”) or Greek architecture (“stool” for “pillar”) capture the reality or immensity that the direct, four-letter, purebred English word “shit” does – indeed, they are all attempts at painting a verbal veneer over – and thus avoiding by locutionary acrobatics – the fact of our own excrement, the infallible inevitability of shit itself. Try as you might to convince yourself and the world around you otherwise, shit happens.
You simply cannot enter a bathroom and declare that it smells like defecate in there, and you sure as shit can't say it smells like poo-poo. In fact, it doesn't smell “like” anything. What it smells of is steaming, stinking, un-flushed shit. No simile is warranted when shit is involved: shit is the ultimate, unmitigated, irreducible reality, shit is the Lacanian Real itself. Anyone who has changed a diaper knows that Junior didn't doo-doo in there: that little monster took a repugnant baby shit – even your shit-eating dogs are repulsed by that vile shit. And while telling a story you may narrate yourself as the Campbellian hero who found himself knee-deep in sheep-dip, we all know that when you were actually there, shitting your pants, you were knee deep in one thing and one thing only: shit. No one is falling for your bullshit.
Speaking of which: you can portray yourself as a sweet little flower and insist to the world that what you did was “take a dump” but what you actually did was leave a shit. All the potpourri in the world isn't going to change the fact that you did, you shitty shit shitter you.
Death and taxes may be certain but nothing is as sure as shit – even a champion constipation suffer knows it is coming and he is reminded of it constantly. That shit is always heading our way, and when it gets here that shit is hitting the fan. We even categorize shit: bull-shit, dog-shit, the classic but nearly forgotten fish-shit. For every human weakness and failing and vulgarity, there's a shit that fits.
Even the word itself is constructed solidly – a proverbial brick-shit-house of a word, no unnecessary accoutrements, just the shit that's needed and none of the shit that isn't. The first somewhat sibilant syllable slides out of you, short or strung-out, either the shushing “shhhhhh” that fails to stem the tide or the short “sh” of the champagne cork popped, forewarning of the inevitability of shit even as it struggles against the scatological giving-birth of itself. And what is born is the only syllable – itself a word – that could possibly follow: “it.” Shit is the ultimate “it” – the ultimate object, the ultimate not-I. Only cadavers, themselves a form of shit, both a precursor to and a product of shit, compare in their effect on us: the revulsion, the desire to pull away, the totality in which our minds, bodies, and language do everything possible to ensure a separation from it, the literal and figurative burial of that shit – I am not that shit; get me away from that shit.
Yet we literally eat shit – every vegetable, every animal that feeds on vegetables or that tears into the bodies (and thus intestines) of other animals is the result of shit. The food chain nothing but the serialization of the transmogrification of one kind of shit into another kind of shit until that shit comes full circle. And there's no avoiding it: internally, we depend on intestinal flora – another potpourri synonym, distancing us from the microbial, symbiotic, shitty reality – for the bulk of our nutrition: we house bacteria who feed off our shit and provide us nutrients in the form of their own shit.
Do not deny this shit any longer – stop silencing shit.
01/29/2010 07:01 p.m.
I sympathize with those who lament the loss of the newspaper, especially with those who find that noble, floppy, wrinkled, finger-smearing media institution easier to read than the computer screen. I too lament a similar loss: the chiseled stone tablet.
What a wonderful media that went by the wayside when the stone tablet went the way of the dinosaur: to chisel in a fact or comment was quite an investment of time and energy, so the writers always took extra special care to say only what needed to be said and to chip in only their strongest convictions – reporters found that adulterating facts or showing undue preferences often lead to making themselves the targets of their own productivity, flung at high speeds like stone Frisbees of death; there was no throwing the tablets away (this was before the age of stone recycling, which some of you here might remember) and thus every piece of news or opinion that found itself in august print was assured of being weighty and finding itself in a permanent record, what with being written in stone and all; like the newspaper wrapped around cod or rolled up to smack a dog it was a medium that often doubled as a tool – few things served to brain a mammoth or an uppity cave-woman like a stone tablet to the cerebellum – and nothing since, neither newspaper nor computer monitor nor PDA, has made quite as good a door stop; best of all, the simple act of picking up the tablet, walking it to the commode, and reading its one page was all the daily exercise one needed – we had much stronger forearms in those days, strong enough to swat at saber-tooth tigers with small logs, and I am convinced that the high rates of obesity and heart-attacks we hear about nowadays are inversely related to our vastly decreased stone-tablet literacy rates.
Of course, there were a few obsessive-compulsive types back then who acquired tablets to excess – you'd walk by their open cave and see piles and piles of tablets, collecting dust and making movement within their homes nearly impossible. However such eccentricity had its communal perks: every neighborhood had its own archive and library, and there was that one time we needed to build a gladiatorial Colosseum and had no other building materials available, so we simply collected the last few years' worth of financial sections (who needs to know last year's going rates on slaves and yaks anyway?) and built ourselves a fancy new arena (which was conveniently waterproof, soundproof, and thanks to the texture provided by the chiseled sentences, quite slip-resistant).
If only there were an excuse in modern times for newspapers large and small, local and national, to improve the quality of their product, focus the scope of their attention, maintain higher levels of ethics and accuracy, efficiently and eloquently approach their intended audience, and otherwise follow all the rules of economy and good writing that all other craftspeople and businesspeople are expected to follow! If only there were a device – I think we should call it a printer – from which one could produce paper versions of online stories, so that those of us whose eyes tire of looking at the radiating box could extrude physical copies of our favorite writers' and organizations' writings!
But then again, I am possessed of equal parts silly old-fashioned notions and ridiculous science-fiction fantasies. Why in H. L. Mencken's name would anyone not want to pay for a bloated, biased pile of so-called news, one which includes endless sections on gossip and other valuable information which he or she shows no interest in? Why would one want to take on the chore of finding specific, reliable sources for specific, relevant subjects, the coverage of which one could easily compare to others with little more than a flick of the wrist and a click of the mouse? Why would one not want to throw away half a tree's worth of glossy, unsolicited advertisements, crooked editorials, bought figures, botched statistics, and a couple dozen pages worth of facts and figments on the finances, psychological reports, personal failures, addictions, and irrelevant life stories of adulterous athletes, drug-addicted pop stars, heiress daughters, and politicians who live lives to put 80's rock stars in the candidacy for canonization?
I say that we approach the disappearing newspaper problem with the same American nostalgia-at-all-costs approach that we applied to the failing auto industry problem. No matter that both industries, in an age of ever-increasing individualism and diversification, myopically reduced the “American Consumer” to one composite, aggregate, heterogeneous creature and thus failed to anticipate, recognize, or provide for the specific needs of unique individuals in localized areas. No matter that both industries ignored the changes in technology and economics that have been growing larger and louder over the past 30 years, despite the fact that both were, in their own ways, at the forefront of the changes (transportation and journalism – brining the change and reporting on it), or the fact that competition has been steadily growing that whole time (foreign auto makers and the info-sphere). Much like with the proposed healthcare solution, I say we tax the American people, create a dozen government agencies and untold thousands of government jobs to encourage, monitor, regulate, and distribute newspapers, one for every man, woman, and child in the nation, and pass laws stating that each of them must read at least one newspaper a day – of course, if they can't afford private newspaper coverage, the government will provide a low-cost newspaper alternative. Remember, it doesn't matter so much what newspaper you read – the national print will provide the same high-quality muck as the private newspapers – as long as you do, in fact, read a newspaper.
It's insane that countries like Denmark have newspapers that get read while America, the richest, most powerful country in the world, has citizens who go every day without the benefit of sloppy journalism.
It may be too late to bring back the stone tablet, but long live the dank, rotting, moth-ridden newspaper!
I am listening to Why is "Self-Amused" not a mood?
Return to the Library of Richard Paez